9 Best Online Course Platforms (2023) – Which Is Top Dog?
Becoming a digital course creator has never been easier thanks to online course software.
But at the same time, there are still so many potential pitfalls that could seriously harm your business. And one thing’s for sure: There’s a lot more of them if you’re on a platform that is not suited to your course.
That’s why in this article, we’re going to dissect the best online course platforms to help you find one that will assist in growing your online course business.
Best Platforms To Sell Online Courses
Here’s our list of the best online course builders:
- Thrive Apprentice
Let’s get to it!
SamCart (best for cross-selling)
SamCart has been one of the most popular shopping cart platforms for quite a long time now. But up until recently, you would have to integrate a third-party online course platform with it.
Now SamCart has launched its new Courses App – with the goal to solve the issues that other online course platforms have.
Since SamCart is primarily known as a shopping cart tool, we were skeptical at first. However, the new SamCart courses app is pretty awesome!
Besides allowing you to provide an excellent online learning experience to your audience, it also has some great automation tools and features to help you sell more in the process.
The platform can actually do quite a lot of things. If you want to know more about its other features, you can read about some SamCart use case examples here.
- Incredibly easy to use
- VERY affordable, considering SamCart has not increased its prices since adding this feature
- Create unlimited courses
- Unlimited student
- Create different membership plans
- Upsells and cross-selling features
- Excellent engagement tools
- Includes some of the best Cart features on the planet
- Built-in affiliate management
- Lots of third-party integrations
- Annual plan discounts (20% off)
- 14-day free trial
- The feature is new, which could be a potential negative because of bugs… But I haven’t seen any complaints
- Some of the best sales features are not available on the starter plan
Who Is SamCart Best For?
SamCart is best for most small business owners and solopreneurs mainly because of its ease of use. A lot of other online course builders can get annoyingly technical and have clunky builders.
SamCart, on the other hand, is straightforward and simple to work with.
Besides this, SamCart is known for its highly effective conversion features. And now, with the new SamCart courses app you can use the cross-sell feature to help you increase your revenue.
If you’re not familiar with cross-selling, basically it’s a powerful feature that you can use within the course builder to show your course members other products that you offer.
SamCart stylishly shows your course members your other products at just the right time to entice them to purchase more from you.
Using this feature alone can increase your revenue considerably, which is why we like it!
Besides, it’s also excellent for any business owner or entrepreneur who wants to leverage advanced shopping cart tools like:
- One-click upsells and downsells
- Two-step carts
- Order bumps
SamCart gives you all the core features on every plan – so you will be able to host your courses on the $49 launch plan. However, some of the advanced sales tools are only available on the premium plan.
- Launch: $49 per month
- Grow: $99 per month
- Scale: $199 per month
Podia (most affordable all-in-one)
Podia is an affordable all-in-one online teaching platform that will let you create and market your educational material, and host your online classes.
The cool thing about it is that it gives you the key features that most other competitors charge DOUBLE or TRIPLE for… While also being user-friendly.
Their goal is quite similar to SamCarts: To take the technical headaches out of creating an online course so you can focus on what you’re best at.
Podia Pros and Cons
- It’s very affordable compared to competitors like Kajabi
- It lets you host and sell webinars as well
- You can also sell coaching with Podia
- You can create a community for your students
- It comes with added marketing tools like affiliate management, a custom website, and email marketing.
- The email marketing tool leaves room for improvement
- The platform isn’t suited if you want to scale past 50k email subscribers because that’s the max email recipients
- There isn’t as much customization as on other platforms
Who Is Podia Best For?
Podia is best for beginners and new course creators. While the platform is very straightforward to use and also affordable – it does lack some of the advanced customization and sales features of competitors.
However, most small business owners won’t necessarily need them or may even find them confusing.
So if you’re into simplicity, Podia is for you.
Podia has three main price plans:
- Mover $39/MO – What you need to know: No ability to remove branding, no affiliate management systems, 5k email contacts
- Shaker $79/MO 15k email contacts
- Earthquaker $179/MO- Everything podia has to offer
Kajabi (best for customization)
Kajabi is one of the top dogs of the course creator platforms and has been so for a while. Why?
Because it simply has some of the most advanced customization, branding, and marketing tools on the market – allowing you to create a better experience for your students and sell more courses.
Kajabi Pros and Cons
- Arguably the best experience for your students because of the amount of customization you can add
- The software and hosting can handle large amounts of traffic
- It comes with some great marketing tools like a website builder and email marketing software
- You can plan your campaigns via the Pipeline feature
- It has excellent sales tools
- Drip content
- Mobile app your users can use to watch your content
- Excellent engagement tools
- You can host your video content on Wistia for free with Kajabi
- It’s pretty costly compared to competitors like Podia
- It can be a little overwhelming because of the amount of customization you have
- The email marketing feature has room for improvement
Who is Kajabi best for?
Kajabi is best for established course creators with an audience that is looking to scale. Since Kajabi is a cloud-based learning management system, it’s designed to handle large amounts of traffic.
Kajabi also has advanced engagement tools and branding features too.
Kajabi has three main pricing plans:
- Basic: $149 per month (Kajabi branding, no affiliate program, limited resources)
- Growth $199 per month (More resources, no Kajabi branding, affiliate program)
- PRO: $399 per month (Max resources + code editor)
Thinkific (best free plan)
Thinkific is a cloud-based learning management system for hosting online classes. It offers pretty much everything you need for quite a low price.
Whether it’s content hosting, website building, engagement tools – or even email marketing… Thinkific has it, and their starter plan is only $39 per month.
It’s even got a free plan you can use to get started.
Thinkific Pros and Cons
- It has a free plan for beginners
- Free content hosting is included
- It also has decent marketing tools
- The membership sites look professional
- Easy to track progress
- Is affordable to host online classes
- Integrates with lots of third-party tools
- The email marketing tool is not advanced – you’ll likely need an integration
- The website builder is quite primary, and it looks more like a small library of your courses
- No blogging feature will make it harder to get organic traffic
Who is Thinkific Best For?
Thinkific is best for two types of course creators:
- People looking for a free platform to get their foot in the door
- Business owners are looking for a scalable, robust, yet affordable online course platform
In addition, Thinkific is also easy-to-use, which is why it’s an excellent choice for beginners.And at $39 per month for the basic plan, there aren’t many better options for the price point on the market.
- FREE (Limited courses, No drip-feed content, no apps, etc.)
- $39 per month (No priority support, no private & hidden courses)
- $79 per month (Priority support, live lessons & more)
- $399 Per Month (Priority support, five site admins & more)
ClickFunnels (best for sales funnels)
ClickFunnels is the most popular funnel-building software on the internet. It is known as somewhat of an all-in-one tool since you get a number of great marketing features even on the basic plan.
And that includes membership sites as well, so you can use it to host both free and premium courses.
The cool thing about using ClickFunnels compared to others on this list is that you will have access to advanced features, such as:
- A sales funnel builder
- Affiliate Management
- Email Marketing
Unfortunately, the email marketing feature is only available on the premium plan.
If you really want to use ClickFunnels, but you can’t quite stretch to paying $297 per month for the premium plan then you’ll be pleased to know that ClickFunnels has a lot of email integrations.
This means that you can easily integrate it with all the popular email marketing software platforms like Aweber, GetResponse, or ActiveCampaign, for example, while remaining on ClickFunnels’ lower pricing plan.
ClickFunnels Pros and Cons
- It’s been around for a while, so you know it’s not going to disappear
- It comes with one of the easiest-to-use sales funnel builders on the market
- Affiliate program management
- You can sell your courses via live webinars, or host them for your students
- You can share your funnels with other users (or vice versa)
- It has a lot of online training and marketing courses
- It is pretty expensive, especially for beginners, as it starts at $97 per month. And there are only 2 plans, with the next one being $297.
- The membership site builder is missing a couple of key features that some of the others have (such as engagement tools or advanced customization)
Who is ClickFunnels best for?
ClickFunnels is best for anyone who wants to focus on selling their course with sales funnels. What makes ClickFunnels the best option, in this case, is their advanced checkout options such as:
- One-click upsells and downsells
- Two-step carts
- Order bumps
And the fact that you can build complex sales funnels where you can cross-sell different products or services.In this aspect, it even has the advantage over SamCart because it has a lot more options and templates for funnel steps.
ClickFunnels has three pricing plans, but one is the Two Comma Club X:
- $97 per month (Only essential features – no email marketing, no affiliate marketing, limited)
- $297 per month (All core features, extra educational material)
- $1497 per month (All core features, 10 sub-users, hours of additional FunnelFlix)
GrooveFunnels (best all-in-one deal)
GrooveFunnels is similar to ClickFunnels, with the main difference being that it has a few more advanced features – it is a true all-in-one solution.
That being said, more isn’t always better, and ClickFunnels has its advantages over GrooveFunnels too (compare GrooveFunnels and ClickFunnels).
What makes GrooveFunnels exciting though, is that they seem to be constantly adding more, and improving the platform all the time.
And, it comes with a whopping 17 apps including video hosting, a website builder, a funnel builder, shopping carts, hosted webinars, membership courses, quizzes, surveys, affiliate management, and more.
GrooveFunnels Pros and Cons
- Wide range of features (17 apps)
- It has a free plan
- It has excellent sales and marketing tools
- It has a fast-growing community that you can be a part of
- They host a lot of live streams that you can tune into
- It’s fairly new so there are some bugs to be fixed
- Because of how new it is, you’re not entirely sure how long it will be around
- As you might expect, the free version is quite limited
Who is GrooveFunnels Best For?
GrooveFunnels is best for anyone who wants to leverage all the online apps it offers to build a course-based business.
Compared to the others on this list, this all-in-one platform simply has the most apps and features – it’s genuinely got EVERYTHING the online SaaS world has to offer.
Of course, not all of the features are yet where they should be – but they are definitely getting there.
GrooveFunnels has an attractive pricing model, as you can still get a lifetime package. However, they have had this for a while, and it could disappear any day from now.
- Normal pricing for platinum: $297 per month
- Lifetime discount $1997 (with payment plans available too)
Teachable (best quick starter)
Like Thinkific, Teachable is another cloud-based learning management system, and one of the most popular online learning platforms.
Like others on this list, it also has a free plan – although I wouldn’t recommend it because of the huge transaction fees.
But Teachable aims to give users everything they need to create and sell courses while also being easy to use.
What I like about Teachable, though, is that they also have lots of educational material or challenges that you can take part in.
Teachable Pros and Cons
- A decent set of features
- Excellent educational material
- Clearly laid out learning path for students to follow
- The websites on the higher plans don’t have Teachable branding
- The customization is pretty nice, so it’s suited for a wide variety of subjects
- The style of the courses is pretty nice, which could help you increase sales & provide a better experience to your users
- It comes with content hosting
- Issue certificates of completion to your students
- High transaction fees on lower plans
- The lower plans do not allow you to remove Thinkific branding
- The price jump between plans is quite big ($29 to $99 to $249)
Who is Teachable Best For?
Teachable is best for course creators that enjoy the feel of the software, and who also want to use the higher plans.
The reason I say this is because the lower plans simply aren’t worth it for two reasons:
- The high transaction fees (up to 10%!)
- The websites won’t contain your own branding
- FREE (Basic features, 10% transaction fee)
- $29 per month (5% transaction fee, limited features)
- $99 per month (No transaction fees, five admin users)
- $249 per month (20 admin users, advanced theme customization, and more)
Skillshare (most affordable)
Skillshare is one of the most known but also unique ways to host an online course. Unlike some of the others on this list, Skillshare will likely send potential students your way.
However, because you will host your course inside the skillshare platform, the monetization options will be limited.
You won’t be able to add upsells or cross-link to some of your other products. Instead, you will be paid for having students inside your online course who pay a monthly fee to Skillshare.
Who Is SkillShare Best For?
Skillshare is best for course creators who don’t want to put too much effort into marketing.
When using Skillshare, you won’t have to rely on yourself for marketing – and you can focus on what you’re best at – creating and running courses.
Besides, it’s also an excellent way of getting your foot in the door when creating courses because you won’t have to worry about designing your website.
So, Skillshare is best for you if you don’t mind sacrificing some monetization opportunities to have less responsibility.
Skillshare Pros and Cons
- Skillshare will likely send you students, and you won’t have to rely on yourself for students
- The Skillshare platform is very popular, so your course will benefit from that
- You can earn money through royalty payments and referrals
- Skillshare lets you build your own
- You don’t sell your course.
- You’re always locked into the online platform and can’t sell anything from it outside
Here are Skillshare’s pricing plans:
- Premium Monthly: 15 per month
- Premium Annual: $8.25 per month. It is billed as one payment of $99 annually
- Team: It costs $99 per user per year
Thrive Apprentice (Best WordPress Course Builder)
Thrive Apprentice is a WordPress plugin that is part of the ThriveThemes umbrella. As this is a WordPress plugin, you’ll have first to get hosting and create your own WordPress website.
But compared to some of the other options on this list, it’s very affordable – ThriveThemes starts at just $19 per month and will give you access to all of their products.
Thrive Apprentice Pros and Cons
- Very affordable
- You will have more control over your site than you do with any others on this list.
- It comes with a TON of tools to help you build your WordPress site
- Your content will never be locked into a platform
- It comes with an excellent visual editor
- Build unlimited courses
- You can build and customize your checkouts
- You will need to pay for (good) hosting as well, and Thrive sites are pretty heavy
- You will have more responsibility with a self-hosted WordPress site (such as security, site speed, etc.)
- There are no monthly payment plans, so you will have to commit a year in advance
Who is Thrive Apprentice Best For?
Thrive Apprentice is best for anyone who wants to sell a course using their WordPress site.
While hosting your course on a self-hosted WordPress site will give you a little more responsibility, it will also give you more control.
You’ll be able to run a more custom website on the front end and design the website however you want.
If you want to sell your services on the same website, that’s entirely possible.
Thrive Apprentice Pricing
Below are Thrive’s pricing options. This pricing is for Thrive’s complete suite of plugins:
- Thrive Quarterly: $90 billed every three months ($30 p/m)
- Thrive Suite Yearly: $228 ($19 p/m)
See all the Thrive Themes plugins here.
That’s it! I hope you have enjoyed my guide on the best online course platforms. As an online course creator, you actually have a lot of choices when it comes to online course builders.
In our opinion, SamCart is the best option overall – because it comes built-in, with what was initially just a sales platform, and for a very reasonable price. On top of this, it has a number of powerful conversion features that can considerably increase your revenue.
With SamCart, the course-building process is easy, and it gives you some excellent tools to sell your premium courses too.